Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Neverwhere is one of those books that answers the 'what if' question about the city in which you live your days, going through your admittedly 'mundane' routines. In this case, London. What if there was a London Below, a strange world which consists of Underground railways, tunnels, sewers, and sometimes uncannily parallels the London that the average inhabitant thought they knew but didn't, and in a way that seems a lot more interesting? It's a scary place, not terribly clean and sanitary. But it's also a place of wonders. If you spent some time there, would you find yourself, and realize that the normal world just doesn't hold the same charm for you, now that you've realized the possibilities? With this book, you can ponder these questions for yourself through the viewpoint of Richard Mayhew.
The unknown is scary for us. Scary, but also exciting. You just have to find the courage to seek it out. That's one thing I love about books. They take me places that I'm not sure I'd want to go in real life. And in the process, they make me want to be braver than I am. Richard has to find that courage (the hard way), but he becomes a hero and a champion in his own right in the process of his journey. He faces pain, loss, and uncertainty, but he gains a lot more in return.
This is the third book I've read by Neil Gaiman (all on audio), and I really appreciate his writing. He has a wonderful way with humor, a grand sense of adventure and whimsy, and he finds the uncanny and fantastical in the everyday and ordinary. Honestly, that's why I love fantasy, particularly urban fantasy.
Although parts of this story were dark in subject matter and could have been too gruesome, the writing keeps the subject from being over the top in these areas. Subtlety in storytelling gives this reader enough to know just how bad the bad guys are, and without the scenes being too off-putting. And there is always hope that good will win out. I need that in a book.
Of course, living in the sewer and the underground aren't the most clean ways to go about one's business, but there was also an undeniable appeal to these worlds. I'm not saying you will see me taking off on a sewer adventure (not going to happen), but at least I can read about it, and think that it didn't sound quite as bad as I thought it would (for the most part).
I liked the diversity of this world. People of different colors, shapes, sizes and origins. That's how a big city like London truly is, not the monochromatic make-believe of some of the shows on TV (which I won't name) where you wonder how the characters can go seven seasons without ever encountering a person of color. And the diversity isn't just background filler. Diverse people have strong roles in this story. With this added appeal, it made the novel even more enjoyable.
Neverwhere was a fun, interesting novel, with some mystical, otherworldly elements right smack dab in the middle of the everyday. I loved that about this book. I am so glad I started reading Neil Gaiman. I recommend you give this book a try if you haven't read him yet.
Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars.
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